John Lynch, the Democrat governor of New Hampshire has confirmed that he would sign into law a bill to legalise gay marriage.

Earlier this evening (UK time), the House of Representatives voted in favour of gay marriage by198 votes to 176. This was just hours after the Senate voted 14 to 10 in favour of the law.

On Monday the New Hampshire House and Senate have agreed to change one word and add a sentence to a bill which effectively gives an opt-out to religious groups. This will mean that churches will not have to provide other services to gay couples.

The Governor had made it clear that any law receiving his approval would need to have this opt-out.

Church-related organisations with charitable or educational purposes are permitted to opt out of providing insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees.

Welcoming the news, Mo Baxley, the executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition said: “Today’s vote is in line with the majority of New Hampshire people who support the freedom to marry. The legislature has upheld the New Hampshire values of individual liberty, freedom and fairness.  We applaud the legislature for continuing to strongly safeguard religious freedom while making sure that all loving, committed couples have the freedom to marry.”

New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine in allowing same sex couples to marry. Others like New York don’t allow gay marriage but do recognise marriages that have taken place in other states.

A survey last week showed that 60 per cent support the introduction of a law allowing gay couples to marry. Other states are expected to look towards introducing gay marriage over the next year.